Like many people across the country, a north Longford family have spent the past week distraught at the thoughts of planned cuts to the health budget. And even though Minister for Health James Reilly rowed back on some of the planned cuts, Aine Reilly and her family are living in fear of December’s budget.
Aine is just one of a handful of individuals nationwide battling the effects of Friedrich’s Ataxia, a rare and progressive condition directly affecting the central nervous system. As part of her condition, she has lost her sight.
At present, she is entitled to 25 hours a week in personal care assistance and two and half hours of home help each day.
This week, her concerned mother, Roisin said fears of savage cuts in the Government’s upcoming December Budget had given much cause for concern within the Reilly household in recent days.
“Definitely, we need things to stay as they are,” said an anxious Roisin. “Aine lived in Dublin for ten years after doing her Leaving Certificate and she wants to be at home. We don’t want to put her into an institution.”
Mr Reilly reversed plans to cut the hours of personal assistants for the disabled in an embarrassing climbdown last week. It came after around 100 disabled people and relatives, including many people from Longford protested outside Government Buildings, fuelling speculation of rumblings of discontent within the Fine Gael-led coaltion.
At a political level locally, Aine’s local councillor Cllr. PJ Reilly said this week he is seeking a full hearing and discussion with the HSE Executive at next Tuesday’s (September 18) Mid Leinster Forum meeting in Tullamore.
In advance of those talks, campaigners this week welcomed the Government’s change of heart, despite concerns still existing over a possible further €17m in cuts to frontline services.
That prospect is one which troubles Roisin and her husband Jimmy greatly.
Sitting beside her daughter at the family home in Dring, Mullinalaghta, Roisin explained that it is 12 years on since the family lost their son Noel to the same illness.
“Noel died at the age of 28,” she candidly explained. “As time goes on you would be thinking things would be getting better, but that’s not the case. We all want to keep those we love at home if they can at all and cost wise it’s cheaper too.
“I get a carer’s allowance but that was cut twice and Aine’s disability (allowance) was cut twice. It will probably be cut hugely now in the next Budget. We were down €20 between two of us and then another €20.”
The loss of €40 a week from a household would, for some, cause upset and exasperation aplenty. Not the O’Reilly’s however, who simply want assurances that their daughter’s home help hours will remain intact.
“There are families worse off than us and there are young people losing their jobs, but we just want things left the way they are. All we want is for Aine to have a normal life, as normal a life as is possible.
“The fact that her sight is gone, she has to trust people. If she was forced into a home, what kind of life would she have? It really doesn’t bare thinking about.”